Friday 17 May 2019

Comming soon ‘Sproket does Troggoths’ Workshop at Element Games June 1 & 2

Golden Demon may be all done and dusted but there’s no time to ease the pace as I’ve gone straight into workshop preparation mode! My ‘Sproket does Troggoths’ workshop will be running on Saturday 1st and Sunday 2nd June at Element Games in Stockport. There will, of course, be the chance to explore the painting of textures and ‘life-like’ flesh tones but these models also offer the chance to get to grips with painting volumes and forms in a way that many smaller minis don’t.

In addition I’ll be presenting my ‘10 Top Tips Tricks & Techniques’ on the Saturday evening. This is a three hour seminar where I reveal, among other things, the secret of the microbead and the art of making professional looking labels for your display plinths.
Tickets are available on the Element Games website.

Tuesday 14 May 2019

Golden Demon 2019. My thoughts, feelings and a (slightly) shameful confession!

Warhammer Fest and Golden Demon felt bigger this year, a lot bigger! It’s the first time I’ve had to queue outside the Ricoh Arena to get in and the queue was long. Thankfully it was also pretty fast moving. Once inside there were more queues first to register for Golden Demon, which is usual, and then to get the minis into the cabinets. That’s something I’ve not seen before on such a scale and it was a clear indicator of just how busy the competition was this year.

At this point I really wasn’t sure that I was going to enjoy the day. That was partly due to competition nerves but mostly the crowds! I’m deaf in my left ear, and while that’s a minor inconvenience most of the time, I don’t cope very well in situations with a lot of background noise. All sounds come at me through my right ear and I’ve no way of telling where they come from. On top of that, if there is a lot of background noise, I can be totally oblivious of anyone speaking to me on my left side if I’m not looking right at them. I can get a bit stressful and does no good for my anxiety!

But happily things quickly improved and I was able to adjust to the situation. Once again the best part of the day, by far, was getting to meet and chat with so many fellow painters. Meeting old friends and making new ones is one of the best reasons for attending an event like this. I’m always delighted, and more than a little surprised, to meet people who follow my blog and enjoy the content I create for it. Nicest of all was the number of people who asked after Mark and I’d like to say “thank you” on his behalf to all the well wishers!

As usual my main focus for the day was Golden Demon but it was obvious that Games Workshop have continued to develop Warhammer Fest. My overall impression was that all the space was being used and to better effect than previous years. The Studio area now filled all the available space and felt much slicker and more professional as did the main hall on the ground floor, and I felt it was a good development

The middle floor was pretty much given over to the launch of the new Citadel Colour Contrast paints. Marketed as a fast way to get minis ‘battle ready’ in one thick coat they certainly performed as advertised. But I think they may well prove to be a useful addition to any painter’s palette. They’re a range of thick washes that tend to stay where you put them while drying. The colour range is great and for the most part features some lovely saturated hues. I had a quick trial with them and can already see myself using them in my own painting process.

This year’s Golden Demon was the biggest and busiest one I’ve seen. There was a buzz to it that reminded me of the early years and especially Derby 1990 when the comp first really began to grow. The only draw back was the difficulty in getting close enough to the cabinets to see all the entries. But from what I could see it was very clear that the number of entries and the standard of painting had gone through the roof! My first impression was that there were far too many well painted minis for all of them to be winning trophies. Some years there are clear winners but this year I think it was almost impossible to predict the outcome. It was all very exciting in a nerve wracking way!

I think both of my entries involved different elements of risk. I felt my Sloppity Bilepiper was the stronger of my two minis but he had already won a Gold at Salute. In my own mind this meant that the best I could do was equal the achievement with another Gold and anything else would be a bit of a let down. This is not the best attitude to have and it’s the main reason that I don’t usually enter a mini again in another comp if it has already won a gold. I adopt a philosophy of quit while you are winning and move on to something new. However I decided to risk potential disappointment as I was very pleased with how Sloppity turned out and felt he was good enough to have a chance at a Demon trophy.

My Tidecaster is another matter altogether. For one thing I felt I was taking a risk of sorts with all the water effects I’d added to her. While she was not converted I had, in a way, added to her. But I was pleased with my painting and I’ve always looked on ‘special effects’ as an extension of my painting. I just wasn’t sure how the judges would regard it. Secondly I’d reworked parts of the Tidecaster and in doing so I had come very close to ruining her. I’ll now confess that I had to repaint the face three times before I was satisfied. I found the repainting to be a traumatic experience and I really hadn’t had time to reflect on the changes. I was left with some doubts about how well I’d done them.

When the time came to see which minis had made it to the finals I found both my entries on the top shelf! I had two trophies but what would they be? First to be announced was Age of Sigmar single mini and I’ll admit to feeling a twinge of disappointment when Sloppity won Silver. This is the shameful bit because that’s not a sentiment I’m proud of! I think it’s one of the dangers of having a lot of success. It’s very important to be able to reflect upon and enjoy what you’ve achieved, rather than what you think you didn’t!

Luckily when I went to collect my minis I ended up next to Yohan Leduc and he was kind enough to let me take a long, close look at his Gold winning Plaguebearer. Any lingering disappointment at winning Silver evaporated pretty much instantly. Yohan’s Plaguebearer is a beautiful piece of work and totally inspirational! Without a doubt the Gold standard is getting higher and I’m proud to get Silver amongst such tough competition!

Of course I still had my Tidecaster in the ‘Eavy Metal Paint Masters category but I was alongside Angelo Di Chello and Patric Sand in the top three. So it was a ‘hold your breath’ and wait to see moment. I’m so proud that my Tidecaster took the Gold. My gamble with repainting her had paid off and it’s a lesson learned (once again) about holding my nerve and trusting to my instincts.

I’ve come away from this year’s Golden Demon feeling incredibly energized and inspired. It’s clear to me that if I want to keep painting minis to the Gold standard I have to up my game. I’m not going to win anything by resting on my laurels and aiming to win is a great way to push my painting and improve my skills. There’s an ebb and flow to painting competitions but at the moment the Golden Demons appear to be going from strength to strength. It makes for an exciting challenge and long may it continue!

The end of the 2019 Golden Demons marks the start of what I consider to be the 30th anniversary year of my first Slayer Sword. The challenge I’m facing, if I want continued competition success, feels exactly the same as the one I faced after the 1989 Golden Demons. That’s not something I’d anticipated but I know what I have to do so now I’ve got to pull my finger out and try to do it!

Friday 10 May 2019

Turning the Tide(caster)

I finished painting my Tidecaster back in July just as Mark began to feel unwell. I didn’t know it at the time but this was the start of the infection that would land him in hospital for a month. Naturally enough I put the Tidecaster away and got on with life. But she has always felt like a little bit of unfinished business. I never had the opportunity to give the mini that final finesse that can often make all the difference. I definitely had the feeling that something was missing from the overall paint scheme but I didn’t have the time to give it my full attention. When Mark came home and I returned to painting I wanted a fresh new project, so I broke out the Sloppity Bilepiper.

But now I have the time, and a very good reason, to take another look at my Tidecaster. When I started painting her it was simply because I liked the mini and that’s always the best reason to paint. But, in the time since I started, the Tidecaster was announced as the chosen miniature for the ‘Eavy Metal Paint Masters category in the 2019 Golden Demon. At that time I didn’t expect to be going to Golden Demon so I was a little disgruntled. However due to Mark’s improving health I am now able to attend and my Tidecaster will be coming with me!

I certainly wasn’t unhappy with what I’d achieved but I had that all too familiar nagging feeling that I could do a bit more. After careful consideration, and the advice of a few fellow painters, I decided to do the following:
  • Rework the Tidecaster’s face;
  • Add texture to the coral;
  • Tweak some of the highlights;
  • Add water effects to the fish.

The face

This was the single biggest issue and the trickiest change to make. I painted the face first and, as the overall scheme and contrast developed, it became clear that the face was too dark. It just didn’t stand out enough. In addition I felt my painting could be softer and smoother. My initial painting of the face felt a little harsh and I wanted something that would look both more passive and feminine. The Tidecaster is notable for having a very calm face counterpointing an active stance. She even has her eyes closed. I felt that her face should, quite literally be the calm focus at the center of the storm.

I had to go in with some very subtle glazes and soften out the transitions on her face. This was especially fiddly because I was also lightening her face to the point of having almost pure white highlights. In addition I worked a little blue into her jaw line and the space above her eyes. I had to take a couple of passes at all of this but I’m glad I stuck it out. I’m now much happier with my Tidecaster’s face and feel it’s appropriate to the nature of the character, as I perceive it.

The coral

This had the opposite problem to the face. My initial painting of the coral was too smooth to the point that it looked bland and unfinished. The solution was to add some texture. Rather than just stippling the coral I decided to paint some striated bands. This had the double benefit of adding a texture and increasing contrast. The final effect is quite subtle but I think it somehow brings the coral to life.

The highlights

This was the subtlest of the changes I made and although it probably makes no great difference I at least know that I’ve refined everything to the best of my ability. I smoothed out some of the highlights on her cloak and sharpened some of the highlights on her armour. Never forget to adjust your painting to reflect the type of material you are trying to represent. Material contrasts are just as important as hue, tone, and saturation! I also added a touch more saturation to the highlights in the gold trim on her cloak.

The fish

This was definitely the least subtle of the changes I made! I based the paint scheme for the fish on a striped marlin and, although I liked the colour and pattern, I felt it looked somehow a bit unfinished. Even worse, to my eye, the fish didn’t quite belong with the rest of the mini. The solution I came up with was to make my fish look wet. I’ve had issues with painting aquatic and semi-aquatic animals before and I wasn’t going to be called out for having a dry fish!

Three coats of high gloss varnish have transformed my fish to something that now looks wet and sleek as it glides through the air. I’ve enhanced this with the addition of a few droplets and streamers of water trailing from the tail and fins. These emphasize the movement in the fish but also add a visual link to the base and tie the fish into the same environment as the Tidecaster.

Overall none of the changes I’ve made to my Tidecaster are that major but they do all make a difference. I now feel I’ve done the best job I can on this mini and she’s as ready as she can be for the Golden Demons!

Wednesday 1 May 2019

Rockgut Troggoth – Part 2

Once the filling and sanding side of model preparation was done I decided to give my Troggoth a light coat of primer. I did this not only to provide a key for the paint, but also to show up any flaws in the gap filling. It can be very hard to tell if all the gaps and seams have been dealt with when the model and filler are contrasting colours. Primer evens out the colour difference and makes any surface imperfections easy to see. My primer of choice is Tamiya fine surface primer in light grey.

The filled mini before priming
The mini after priming

My 1987 Troll was painted green and I always considered that the right colour for Trolls but things have moved on over the years. For one thing a green Troll could easily look rather Nurgleish and, although a Nurgle Troggoth could look great, I fancied a change of palette. I’ve painted a lot of Nurgle and its good to do something different every now and again. The new models feature a variety of interesting textures with a strong contrast between their smooth front and their rocky back. An overall paint scheme based in nature seemed to be a good approach for this model. Consequently I felt that a colour scheme using brown and grey earth tones would be interesting and appropriate. So I set about a little research to find some reference.

During my research, and quite unintentionally, I stumbled across some of Paul Bonner’s artwork and something clicked! I wouldn’t normally use the work of an artist as inspiration but I really loved his approach, and the new Rockgut Troggoths already seemed to have a little bit of Paul Bonner’s artwork in their DNA. While I didn’t want to create a straight copy of any particular painting my colour palette, and the overall feel of my paint scheme, are definitely inspired by Paul’s painting.

I decided to use the brown tones globally in my shadows. This unites the contrasting textures and also helps to create a muted and natural feel. This was especially important as I decided to use Bugmans Glow in the flesh tones. Bugmans is a great colour as it brings warmth and a feeling of life to flesh tones, without being too red, but it can, sometimes, look a bit over saturated.

The grey shades would, naturally enough, be used on the rough, rocky parts of the Troggoth. I used a fairly cool grey to contrast with the warm, pinker, flesh. The use of brown in the shadows not only unites all the different textures but give the rocky textures a more organic feel. This seems appropriate because it’s rocky skin rather than just rock.

The colours palette used to create the Troggoth's skin tones

It took me a while to get to grips with my colour palette and develop the balance and atmosphere I was looking for. I wanted to use my colours is such a way as to create some realistic variation in the skin tones. As with my Megaboss I wanted to create some sort of markings or pattern on my Troggoth. I decided the best place for this would be at the boundary between the rocky back and the fleshy front. A band of mottled brown spots now separates these areas and adds a touch of drama to the scheme without overpowering it.

My flesh tones are rounded off with some touches of red and blue carefully glazed and stippled into the shadows. This adds some extra contrast and interest to the palette. In addition these colours help to make the flesh tones look more ‘alive’.

In addition to the stony parts of the Troggoth the miniature features several pieces of actual stone in the form of amulets, armour and, most notably, a stone dwarf head the Troggoth is about to throw. I decided to give this a subtly different tone to the grey stony parts of the Troggoth and opted for a grey/green tone. The colour is subtle but in contrast to the warm flesh tones the green will be more obvious than it might otherwise be.

Drybrushed underpainting
Edge highlights and glazes over drybrushing

All of the stony parts on this mini have benefitted from careful drybrushing. I’ve used this, as I often do, as a sort of underpainting. I drybrushed my greys over a dark brown base and then refined them with some edge highlights and glazes. This has the effect of sharpening the definition on the drybrushing without covering up the texture.

Drybrushed underpainting
Edge highlights and glazes over drybrushing